Taylor Swift to Release “Reputation” on November 10

It’s finally happening. Taylor Swift will release her sixth full-length album titled Reputation on November 10, just over three years after dropping 1989. Swift made the announcement via Instagram this morning, ending speculation after her social media accounts went blank late last week. Swift also announced that a new single with drop tomorrow.

Take a look at the artwork for Reputation below:

What do you expect from Taylor Swift’s new album? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2017: #6 Haim Take Summer by Storm

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Four long years have passed since one of recent memory’s most lauded debut acts hit the scene. Haim charmed the music world in 2013 with the release of Days are Gone, a simmering R&B-tinged pop rock debut album that landed them as the opening act on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour, live performers on SNL and festival headliners across the country.

You’ll have to forgive the Haim sisters if they’ve been a bit busy, but even so, the ladies have been hinting at a new album just on the horizon for over a year now. When 2016 passed with no new music, the band’s growing fan base began to whisper. So…what’s the hold up?

Multiple rumored producers have surfaced in the past year, including an “organic” in-home self-produced record from the band. It’s clear that Haim are taking no chances with what is quickly becoming a crucially important sophomore release. If it’s not exactly right – they won’t be releasing it. As of now, the band is pointing at a summer 2017 release date.

It’s difficult to be mad at the ladies who have become some of the most likable figures in the indie rock realm, especially when Days are Gone still goes down so smooth. However, with each subsequent listen, that album begs even harder for a second chapter.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: 2016 Grammys Recap

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On this episode of the podcast, Kiel Hauck talks with the person who helped him fall in love with music – his mom. The two reflect on their memories of watching the Grammys in years past and break down the performances and awards that took place during the 2016 Grammy Awards. During the discussion, they chat about moments involving Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, the cast of Hamilton, The Eagles and much more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here. Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2016: #9 Taylor Swift Comes Back in Style

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Filling the Blank Space

Just over 14 months after the release of the most successful album of her career, coupled with numerous award nominations and a massive world tour, we’re already anticipating what’s next for Taylor Swift. In doing so, we recognize that it’s wholly possible (even likely) that Ms. Swift rides the continuous waves of 1989 all the way through 2016. But we hope that isn’t the case.

Swift has a history of proclaiming her need for “time off” shortly after the release and support of her albums, only to resurface sooner than expected with another offering. Now six singles into the lauded pop tour de force that is 1989, it’s hard to believe that Swift isn’t thinking about what comes next.

Her place atop today’s pop music mountain alongside the likes of Adele and Beyoncé is in no danger of crumbling, but in a world driven by the moment, there’s a constant clamor for something new. While Swift could easily coast through 2016 in relative silence without missing a beat, here’s hoping she’s ready to make some more noise.

Swift’s career trajectory has been astonishing to watch – from innocent pop princess to pop culture’s biggest action hero, there’s no denying her ability for sonic and personal growth. Wherever she goes next, our collective attention is sure to follow. Pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist? Nah, T-Swift holds it in the palm of her hand.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy and the Art of the Remix

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Time to mix things up! On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz examine Ryan Adams’ re-imagined 1989 and discuss the pros and cons of remixes and cover albums. They also speculate on the upcoming Fall Out Boy remix album and the Punk Goes… series. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What’s your favorite remixed or re-imagined album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Story of Us: How Taylor Swift Won Me Over

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It’s 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and I’m standing outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, frantically refreshing StubHub on my phone while bartering with a scalper for his final two tickets to the event inside. Before I can talk him down to the amount of cash I have on hand, an excited couple swoops in and buys the tickets. They head inside, where Taylor Swift is taking the stage.

The clock has struck midnight on my hopes to see one of my most anticipated events of the year and I must walk home in the dark, defeated. How in the hell did we get here?

***

My first job out of college in 2006 was as a disk jockey at a country music radio station in Enid, Oklahoma. I had no familiarity with the genre, other than to know it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed. During my time at the station, I became quite familiar with the format, and while most of the music failed to win me over, there was one artist that stood out to me. Her name was Taylor Swift.

Swift was 16 years old at the time and had just released her debut self-titled album. Her first single, “Tim McGraw”, was named after one of the genre’s biggest stars, and while she was far from our most requested artist at the station, she certainly felt like an artist on the brink of something big.

I remember being taken aback by her maturity as a songwriter. Was a 16 year old really singing these songs? Many of her tracks were stripped down acoustic ballads and they felt like the songs from someone scarred, yet still content after years of pain. She seemed to capture the essence of country music in its simplest form. There was no flash, only the songs of a young girl who seemed seasoned beyond her years.

I still feel that sense of strength when I listen to “Teardrops on My Guitar”. The song feels familiar, and it has the unique ability to connect with listeners both young and old. We know that “Drew” is a teenage boy, but without context, he could be anyone, especially since we’ve all felt the need to laugh “’cause it’s so damn funny”. What that song captures in terms of emotion and experience is something many artists spend a career trying to achieve.

By the time Taylor released Fearless, her 2008 sophomore record, I was no longer working at a country music station – but no matter. Fearless would prove to be Swift’s true breakthrough, generating five singles, two of which were undeniable international hits. Taylor was officially here to stay, and frankly, unavoidable.

However, my respect for her craft vaporized quickly. On Fearless, Swift harnessed a number of big name co-writers and added pop elements to the mix, creating a blend that caught on quickly with a mass of listeners and blurred genre lines. Gone were the genuine, stripped down moments and in were bouncy teen-bop anthems about boy trouble. Increased radio play and MTV appearances bolstered Swift’s fame, and once Kanye rushed the stage during her VMA acceptance speech, Taylor was a bonafide superstar.

Much more than the sudden fame, I was troubled by what I interpreted as an artistic regression. It seemed as though Swift had sacrificed maturity and authenticity for dumbed-down radio hits that sounded as though they were written by a focus group. It doesn’t help when your most famous song’s chorus features the profound line, “You be the prince and I’ll be the princess / It’s a love story, baby just say, ‘yes’”. In my mind, Swift had gone from the next great country prodigy to the soundtrack to the worst knock-off Disney movie ever made.

When the just-as-successful Speak Now released in 2010, I had already made up my mind. I was the guy that used to like Taylor Swift before she sold her soul to be America’s teen idol. Even when the singles from 2012’s Red tickled my ear, I continued to write Swift off as childish and immature. I was stubborn and I was wrong.

***

So had Taylor Swift really become less mature as an artist, or was I just missing the point? The answer to that question didn’t become clear until last fall, when Swift released 1989. As one of the few who didn’t immediately fall in love with lead single “Shake it Off”, I’m still not quite sure why I decided to listen to the whole album upon its release. Even so, I distinctly remember listening to it. And then listening to it again. And again. That afternoon, I bought the album from iTunes. A week later, I bought the album on vinyl.

1989 was Taylor’s first official pop record – and it is a doozy. The album is a coming of age story and depicts the journey of a young woman who finally feels comfortable in her own skin. It’s wonderful pop music, but it’s also a bold artistic statement from someone who isn’t afraid to change her voice and redefine herself. Both thematically and sonically, it’s actually kind of brave.

As I wrestled through the emotional baggage that comes with falling in love with the music of the person that you once condemned, I started searching for why I felt that way in the first place. What I failed to realize (or simply just ignored) during Swift’s journey to stardom was that this was the actual journey of a real human being.

Put on the map at the tender age of 16, Swift has spent the better part of a decade growing up and finding her voice while standing in the brightest of spotlights. During that time, she also became the voice for a new generation of music lovers who hung on her every word. I just lacked the grace to see the situation for what it was.

Songs that once made my eyes roll, like “You Belong with Me”, now sound full of innocence. Tracks that once made me guffaw, like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, now make me remember my younger days and the confusion I felt. Of course, all of this fails to acknowledge the simple fact that during the majority of Swift’s career, I wasn’t her target audience, which is totally acceptable.

To put it simply – it wasn’t you, Taylor. It was me.

***

In the months since the release of 1989, I’ve come to love the record more than when I reviewed it last year. I’ve even come to enjoy Red (which I also purchased on vinyl), perhaps even more than 1989. Although my end-of-the-year Spotify stats won’t show it, I’ve probably listened to Taylor Swift more than any other artist in 2015. That’s a sentence I never in my life imagined that I would be typing at the age of 32. But there it is, and here we are.

When tickets went on sale late last year for the 1989 World Tour, I was still in a state of confusion about my feelings toward Taylor Swift. By the time I came to terms with the truth, tickets were selling on the secondary market for arms and legs. Alas, there would be no exorcizing of demons by crossing the threshold of Bankers Life Fieldhouse to witness Taylor Swift in person. For now, spinning those vinyl records will have to do.

It’s safe to say, her next record is already my most anticipated album of 2016. Funny how things work out.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

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Since the dawn of time, mankind has wrestled with the meaning of pop music. There are certainly moments when a pop song digs deep at our innermost fears and speaks to our soul in the most inexplicable of ways. At other times, it serves as the butt of our jokes and the catalyst for us to throw caution to the wind at a friend’s wedding and dance the night away.

Perhaps pop music is at its best when it falls somewhere in the middle – defying logic by its mere presence, yet offering comfort as the soundtrack to an assortment of life’s memories. Canadian star Carly Rae Jepsen not only struck gold with “Call Me Maybe” in 2012 in terms of commercial success, but also managed to find the perfect balance of sincerity and unabashed youthful indulgence. What are the chances that lighting could strike twice?

You can buy Emotion on iTunes.

You can buy Emotion on iTunes.

Jepsen’s new album, Emotion (stylized as E·MO·TION), doesn’t have a “Call Me Maybe” – and that’s actually a good thing. Instead, her follow up to 2012’s Kiss is very clearly a statement of authenticity and a personal reflection of Jepsen as an artist. The fact that it’s blanketed in sugary-sweet 80s-inspired pop is just icing on an already delicious cake.

If Emotion doesn’t float your boat stylistically, there’s nothing wrong with you – this sort of over-the-top extravaganza isn’t for everyone. However, it’s impossible to deny just how catchy these songs are. Jepsen has already proven her ability to combine bubblegum flavor with innocent ponderings on life and relationships, but her new album takes the entire approach to new heights.

Opener “Run Away With Me” is not only a microcosm of Emotion as a whole, it might be the best song Jepsen has written. The pulsing synthesizers, thumping bass line and sporadic claps scream of the album’s 80s influences. Whereas Taylor Swift splashed drops of the decade onto last year’s 1989, Jepsen dives in headfirst. Her surprisingly sultry lyrics of “Oh baby, take me to the feeling / I’ll be your sinner in secret / When the lights go out / Run away with me” brush away the lingering hints of “Maybe”.

Jepsen shows flashes of influence throughout the album from a number of 80s power pop stars. The album’s title track channels Like a Prayer-era Madonna with a soaring chorus, while “Let’s Get Lost” feels like a Janet Jackson hit. Her wonderfully playful chorus of “Baby let’s go get lost / I like the way that you’re driving slow / Keeping my fingers crossed / That maybe you’ll take the long way home” is vintage-Carly Rae in 2015.

The closest Jepsen comes to the explosiveness of “Maybe” is with “I Really Like You”, a single released almost six months before the album that now feels like a stowaway aboard Emotion. It’s still catchy as hell, but it almost feels like the primer for the rest of the record. Nevertheless, those programmed drums and the song’s massive pre-chorus of, “It’s way too soon, I know this isn’t love” still pop with just as much energy as ever.

When Carly Rae is at her best, she’s able to turn potential train wrecks like “Boy Problems” into thrilling roller coaster rides. A cord-twirling phone call with a friend about boy trouble lags deeply in the lyrical department, but somehow still turns out to be one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album thanks to an incredible melody and an almost audible wink at the camera. The same formula works on “Your Type”, Jepsen’s answer to Swift’s “Blank Space”.

Nevertheless, it’s nearly impossible to throw a perfect game when your only pitch is a fastball. Jepsen tries her hand at a ballad in the form of “All That” but comes up short. The plucking electric guitar and starfall synthesizers come off as cheesy, while the slow pace of the song feels uncomfortably forced. “LA Hallucinations” attempts to tackle the dark side of being an overnight success, but lines like, “Money makes your whole world spin” and references to “Buzzfeed buzzards and TMZ crows” land painfully awkward. Maybe introspection is best saved for tracks that aren’t backed by Nintendo sounds.

Still, a few scattered wild pitches can’t distract from the overall body of work. Emotion could very easily have fallen flat, leaving Jepsen as a forgettable one-hit wonder. Instead, her new album solidifies her as a pop powerhouse at a time when it’s harder than ever to stand out amidst the muddied radio crowd. If Carly Rae’s ability to come off as genuine while driving a glistening vehicle normally reserved for the counterfeit becomes her legacy, it’s not a bad one to have. That seems like the kind of pop music we can all enjoy.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Taylor Swift – 1989

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Our current digital age offers us the odd and often cruel opportunity to watch the artists we follow grow up before our very eyes. No longer are we constrained to partaking of just the art, we are now able to dissect the art itself through the lens of a warped reality we construct through social media posts and paparazzi news. It’s an odd game we play that often strips the mystery away.

Therefore, it’s a true joy when the evolution of the art itself trumps the rest and overshadows our perception of the artist. With her latest release, 1989, Taylor Swift has improbably managed to eclipse her own celebrity and rewrite her narrative in such a way as to increase her respect as an artist while still gaining popularity.

1989 is not the greatest album you’ll hear this year, nor does it rattle the well-worn conventions of popular music. It does, however, shine a light on Swift’s integrity, songwriting prowess and ability to craft a damn good song. Most of all, it captures the account of a girl growing up in a way that no tumblr post ever could.

This is a pop album in the truest sense of the word, paying homage to not only the year Swift was born, but the music that defined the era. Gone are the plucky banjo lines that allowed her music to be serviceable to country radio and vanquished are her pouty-face ballads about those pesky boys. When 1989 does address relationships, it’s usually in a stunningly mature and nuanced manner.

That’s not to say that Swift is completely all grow’d up. Opener “Welcome to New York” displays her sonic shift with its pulsing bass, claps and synthesizers while Swift sings as a starry-eyed youngster marveling at the possibilities of the big city. It’s a well-worn convention, but it harkens to a day we’ve all experienced, when we left the comfort of home for the first time. This opener, and to a greater extent, the album itself, is about the potential risk/reward payoff of stepping from the known into the unknown.

The album relies heavily on its 80s influences, melding it with beats that feel relevant to create a welcome respite from the safe confines of princess pop. The music itself allows Swift to explore new territory. “Blank Space” is radio ready with its glossy chorus, but the track is much less a love song than the story of a girl growing comfortable with her own insecurities.

Nowhere is Swift’s evolution more prevalent than on tracks like the sultry “Style”, a song that could have been a b-side on Haim’s Days Are Gone. That’s right, Taylor Swift has written songs that you can dance to with absolutely no guilt. You’re tempted to feel odd at the sudden shift from Swift’s “aw shucks” innocence until you realize that this sensual track feels more authentic and honest than most of her peers could create.

“Out of the Woods” continues the trend with a spacey synthpop number co-written with Jack Antonoff. The song captures the underlying darkness that made fun.’s last record so intriguing, offering up a mature track full of questions and concern reflecting on past young love. “Bad Blood” follows in its footsteps, sounding like a powerful song full of real frustration, written by someone ten years her senior.

For most of the album, Swift is transitioning between a placing a critical eye on the meaning of relationships and acknowledging her own shortcomings coupled with her own understanding of how she’s perceived. These concepts spill out in moments of dance-filled delight and moments of heavy exasperation. Rarely is there indifference, as each moment seems to cling to purpose.

There are times where Swift nearly reverts to her old tricks, like the simple, twangy chorus of “Wildest Dreams” or sticks her toe in the tepid pool of Disney pop with the lazy and out-of-place “How You Get the Girl”. For the most part though, 1989 follows a common thread. She was wise to release the catchy and buzzworthy “Shake It Off” as the album’s first single – a track that carries the album’s heart on its surface, but doesn’t dig near as deep as the meatier parts of the record.

The fact that a song like “Shake It Off” exists at all speaks to the age in which Swift lives. Were 1989 released in 1989 instead of 2014, our perception of the record would exist almost entirely devoid of our knowledge of Swift the person as we have been presented, and would instead hold its merit in light of her past work. There will be no one coming of age moment for Taylor Swift, even though the release of this record comes dangerously close, making her ability to pull off this sort of transparency and transformation that much more astounding.

Whereas some of her contemporaries like Katy and Miley forgo any sort of soul-searching or humanity in favor of a quick hit, Swift carries these qualities in spades and is still able to manhandle the charts. It’s not that this fact didn’t exist before the release of 1989, but this latest work sheds Swift’s usual conventions and tendency to dumb down with such tenacity that it’s opened up a whole new realm of possibility for her career trajectory.

In a year in which not a single artist could mange to go platinum, Swift has done so, and then some, in the span of a week. She’s likeable and she has the available resources to craft massively popular songs. The hidden gem is that she has a relatable soul and a desire to grow her art in such a way as to explore it more deeply and more honestly. This can only mean good things for her future music and the future music of those that follow in her footsteps.

3.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.